AG: End Times for a Scientist’s Career


This happens.  An astronomer said that he found, as astronomers do, something that looked unusual and that turned out to be an unusual form of a usual thing.  But before he figured that out, a reporter happened to ask him what’s new, and the astronomer said he’d found this unusual thing, couldn’t figure it out, kind of mysterious.  And the reporter wrote an article for the New York Times (8/17/99), “Rarely Bested Astronomers Are Stumped by a Tiny Light,” and then the Weekly World News picked it up: “New York Times Story Sends Shock Waves Through Governments: Mystery Light in Northern Sky Baffles Scientists,” and began the story, ” . . . political and religious leaders around the world are terrified that the bizarre phenomenon is another sign from God that that the End Times are near.”

Luckily the scientist and his career both survived.


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3 thoughts on “AG: End Times for a Scientist’s Career

  1. Yes, coincedentally I just watched an item on the BBC News that illustrates this kind of inverted journalistic pyramid. Apparently, someone has detected a planet somewhere out there that seems unusually high in the carbon spectrum (Ann please provide relevant science). So, according to the Beeb, there are probably planets out there with mountains made out of gigantic diamonds.
    Not sure how this helps, but I expect F Scott Fitzgerald lives on one of them …

  2. I read about that carbon planet too, Tim. I’m pretty sure that they have evidence only that the atmosphere has a lot of carbon in it. And I know I should sift through the hype to see what else they might actually have evidence for, but I got tired. Planets of diamonds? Aren’t diamonds made under high compression? What would compress a planet? I just got tired again.

  3. Well, I suppose if their rocks were laid down as predominantly carbon- rather than silicon-based, they might compress into diamond rather than quartz, then surface as mountains, and then … Oh heck, I’m tired too. And I’m five hours’ worth of wine ahead of you.

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